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222 Misunderstanding?

    Evening.

    Kiba and others once again resumed their travel. In between, they faced some low-level wild beasts but they were no problem for the team given their strength.

    "There is a Stardust Mushroom in the area we are going," Amir said as they walked ahead.

    "Ah!" Ruby let out a shocked gasp.

    She recalled it was one of the commodities Kiba wanted to acquire in the forest before he stepped inside the meteorite.

    "Truly precious, right?" Mina asked Ruby.

    She thought Ruby's reaction was due to the rareness and price of Stardust Mushroom.

    "Yes," Ruby agreed honestly.

    She knew how hard this mushroom was to find and acquire due to the environment in which it was born.

    "I have credible information so we can acquire it without much trouble," Amir loudly said, as if worried Kiba and other temporary members would get cold feet.

    "If you say so," Kiba replied, his voice containing worry.

    Obviously, he was anything but worried. He has to show hesitation to not invoke suspicion, and as expected, this worked to his benefit.

    "Is it cool with you, Ashlyn?" Amir enquired as he brought his eyes on her.

    Ashlyn nodded her head in agreement.

    "Good," Amir's said with a breath of relief. "Here are the details."

    Amir took out a map to share the topography and other information of the area from where they were going to acquire the mushroom.

    Throughout the time he explained, Amir has a kind and sincere voice, especially when he reassured the temporary members of the dangers involved.

    Inwardly though, Amir started laughing as he thought, "I initially planned to use you three till the end, but given the dangers, it would be beneficial to use you now and acquire this mushroom."

    Amir then once again started guiding them towards the destination.

    Behind, Kiba shook his head and released a low sigh.

    "I am truly not made for a team," Kiba mused with a faint smile. "Joined the team in the morning, and the team leader is already planning to sacrifice me."

    Amir might not have done anything suspicious, but that itself was enough for Kiba to know what he planned.

    In his life so far, Kiba has met various types of people who masked their real intentions behind sincerity and kindness.

    Perhaps the best example would be Castor Damon and his group who used the excuse of 'greater good' to use Zed and others for seeking Cosmic Spark.

    Even long before that, he never trusted anyone blindly, much less a man he has met today. He has knowledge of various mutated flora and fauna, including the environment in which they grow. From this, and the way Amir eyed Ashyln as if she was a time bomb, he pretty much has a good idea of what the team leader has in mind.

    "Well, I do need the mushroom so I should play this game for the time being," Kiba thought as Amir suddenly stopped without any warning.

    "What's wrong?" Alexia asked.

    She looked ahead and noticed a swamp some five hundred meters from her position.  The swamp spanned as far as her eyes could see.

    She obviously knew about the swamp and its deadly nature, so she was sure this won't be the reason for Amir to stop suddenly.

    Just then, she hastily turned around as she felt some peculiar glares from the banks of the swamp.

    "Hmm?" Kiba traced her eyesight and noticed a group of ten, six males and four females.

    They were some two hundred meters from his position and carrying weapons along with camping bags. One of the ten members, a bulky, middle-aged bald man was staring at someone close to Kiba.

    Ruby, who was next to Kiba, looked at the bald man with disbelief on her face.

    "Boss Byron?" Ruby muttered, her voice not at all audible.

    "Oh!" Kiba's hearing was enhanced so he obviously heard her words. His eyes lit up in understanding as he focused on Byron and others.

    He has made Ruby his 'slave' after she and her two companions tried to capture him through 'Knight In Shining Armor' scheme.

    Obviously, her two companions were killed by Kiba, and Ruby was given two unique choices: join her companions in the underworld or become his slave in this world of mortals.

    Kiba was rather good at selling her the choice, and she willingly became his slave after knowing his ways of sending someone to the world of deads.

    Later on, Ruby has even unknowingly confessed that she wanted to rely on her other group members to tackle Kiba, while for the time being, she served him as a slave.

    But that thought didn't even last a day after she became his slave.

    After witnessing the extent of his powers in his battle with Fiona and others, she killed her plans. She swore to never think of betraying him, at least that was her intent as of now.

    "You guys are acquainted?" Mina enquired while preparing herself for any situation. The others in the team, except for Ashyln, similarly put themselves on guard.

    "I'm now," Kiba replied in a low voice.

    Mina was confused but she didn't get time to ask more as she noticed Byron walking ahead.

    "Where are Xander and Kyron?" Byron asked, his right hand showing a sharp ax as he stepped towards Ruby.

    Byron was from Deles City as well, and every one of his companions was a part of the same human trafficking group. Byron was close to Xander and Kyron, he even treated them like a family despite them being traffickers.

    The group specialized in capturing mutants with great potential and selling them to the highest bidders. The group didn't care if the buyer was going to use the captured mutant for prostitution or a freak experiment.

    All they cared about was the financial returns. Morals were the things which never mattered to them.

    "They..." Ruby stammered in between, not knowing how to answer.

    How could she tell him that they were killed by Kiba in order to make her feel being a slave was a good fortune?

    "They are on a trip," Kiba answered in a gentle voice.

    "Trip? Who the hell are you anyway?" Byron glared at Kiba with his fiery eyes.

    "Future-father-in-law, I'm your daughter's boyfriend," Kiba said, his voice filled with respect for a close relative.

    He quickly placed an arm around Ruby as he sensed her losing balance, and stopped her from falling on the ground.

    Ruby felt as if the world was spinning around, and if not for Kiba's quick actions, she would have definitely fallen on her knees.

    Father-in-law?!

    He is not my father, much less your future father-in-law!

    Just before she or Byron could say anything, Kiba once again opened his lips to continue, "Ruby's two brothers have taken a one-way ticket to the wonderland."

    "Wonderland?" Byron and others in his group were bewildered, but when they thought some more, their eyes glinted with understanding.

    "He is being conned!" Byron thought in his heart.

    The others in the group reached a similar conclusion. They now believed that Kiba 'misunderstood' the relationship between Ruby and them.

    What's more, they started believing that the 'misunderstanding' was created by Ruby and her two companions. After all, to capture a big fish with great potential, you need to adapt and rely on new methods. The standard knight-in-shining-armor scheme was not a guaranteed way of success.

    "Yeap," Kiba answered.

    "I see," Byron laughed with delight, "Those sons of mine are sure unreliable. Going on a trip after coming here and leaving my daughter alone."

    His attitude was now completely different from what one would expect of a man wielding an ax.

    "They trusted Ruby with me so they are not unreliable," Kiba said in a high voice. "For me, those two are heroes, and someday, I want to buy you a ticket for the wonderland as well."

    "Sure, I would love to get a ticket," Byron patted Kiba with a burst of loud laughter. "I'm eager to visit the wonderland and meet my sons."

    Ruby started sweating with nervousness as she heard the conversation and studied the expressions of her group members. She wondered just what sort of reactions they would have if they learned the location of wonderland.

    "I can't wait as well," Kiba responded as Byron proceeded to hug him as an understanding and modern father-in-law.

    After a few seconds, Byron left the hug and turned towards Ruby.

    "Ruby, you have met a wonderful man," Byron said in a complementing voice.

    "I sure have."
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